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Have you ever been ill before a show or rehearsal, so ill that you felt you couldn’t go through with it, yet somehow you did and ended up having a great set?

Not me, but the lovely Jet Eveleth with Paul Brittain - Photo © Adrianne Gagnon

(Not me, but the lovely Jet Eveleth with Paul Brittain) – Photo © Adrianne Gagnon

When Paul Brittain offered a workshop in Toronto, I signed up months in advance. I was super excited, and looking forward to learning from the SNL alumnus.

But as the date got closer, I got sick. We’re talking coughing up toxic sludge, sweating profusely, SARS-kinda sick. Still, I was determined to attend. (Who cares if I was carrying the Plague? This was clearly all about me.)

The day of the workshop, I awoke feeling mummified. On the subway ride there, I was sure I was going to pass out.

Standing outside the classroom, I was torn between vomiting or dying. Mostly, I was furious at my body: How dare it get sick, now of all times?

At the last moment I made a decision: I wouldn’t participate, I’d just monitor the class. It was better than missing it altogether.

And then a funny thing happened.

I sat and watched as the first group performed. But when Paul called for four new people to go up, I joined them. My performance was far from amazing, but I enjoyed learning a new form.

I returned to my seat and watched as another group tried a different form. When he called for a new bunch of people, I went up again. This time I was a little more playful.

As the afternoon progressed, Paul switched to two-person scenes.

Standing on the sidelines, I thought of an initiation: I’d go in as Tom Jones, a callback to an earlier scene.

But as I strode forward, my hand cupped like it was holding a microphone, the girl walking towards me endowed me as a computer salesman.

Without breaking stride, I became an Apple Genius, and the microphone became a pen. I saw the store in 3D all around us, and started showing her a MacBook.

With every line my scene partner spoke, words and phrases peculiar to my character (not me) flowed from my lips, and I discovered more things in our environment to play with. I didn’t have to look; they appeared spontaneously.

During the scene I was aware of only one thing: that I wasn’t thinking or anticipating at all. It felt like things were being fed to me, constantly, intravenously.

Afterwards, Cameron asked if I’d seen Paul laughing. I hadn’t, but it was only then with the workshop over that I realized I hadn’t thought about being ill the entire time.

Two hours earlier I wasn’t sure I could stand. My only goal was to get through the workshop without puking. But during scenes, I was like a person possessed. It was one of the funnest, most freeing experiences I’ve ever had.

Maybe I oughta get sick more often.

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  1. July 21, 2014

    Ah man! So sad to have missed this workshop! When did it happen?

    • July 21, 2014

      Hi Brie, this was a couple of years ago during the Big City Improv Festival. I wanted to take Jet’s too, but it was sold out. Hoping they bring back some more Chicagoans this year!

      • July 21, 2014

        That would be so great! 🙂

  2. July 21, 2014

    Me, too! One of my best experiences in a clowning class was when I’d gotten a little hurt near the beginning of class and gave myself permission to sit out the rest of the day if I needed to. But then I didn’t sit out, and my work was better that day than it ever had been. I wrote about it more here:

    http://www.thankyouredball.com/when-you-forget-that-there-are-no-grades/

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